Yesterday I took my mom grocery shopping. Her husband's down in Costa Rica for a week, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, and the friend who was going to come stay with her was prevented from coming by the winter storms. My mom is doing quite well: I offered to simply shop for her, but she was quite up to making the shopping trip, and the cart served quite well as a walker. I just walked along beside her, chatting occasionally, making sure no one jostled her. It was easy.
Spending that much time with my mother – who is a lovely and un-difficult person, let me hasten to say – exhausts me, in prospect and in reality. Our relationship is not an easy one, not for me, at any rate. I spent the morning in trepidation and the afternoon in exhaustion. Humiliating, but there it is. And I had so been looking forward to this weekend as a weekend of recovery. Instead I read my Curzon mystery, and ate and ate and ate – leftover rich Chinese food, cake, whatever I could get my hands on. A waste of a day. And as the day dwindled into evening I noted, with self-loathing, that my plan for getting regular exercise again was going to go by the boards. And that I had left the dishes undone. Everything I looked at or thought about was a reminder of some failure or other, and there wasn't enough food in the world to insulate myself from it.
I stood at the sink – having ascertained that no, there was no ice cream in the house, and watching the urge to get more duel with the reluctance to do something so fraught with initiative and self-reliance as going to the store myself – and, leaning there like a sick man, breathed, and watched my breath. Inchoate resentments against my family rose around me, like the steam from boiling pasta. I have been surrounded all my life, they said – suddenly and surprisingly coalescing into words – by people whose egos have depended upon my continual failure.
Now that, of course, was absurd, a classic instance of depressive thinking, a billow of nonsense tethered to a couple rusty bolts of half-truth. I loathed myself all the more for entertaining it.
But instead of dropping it, I played what-if with it. And what if it were true? What then? What would it mean? What would be the appropriate response?
The answer came at once: the appropriate response would be to say the hell with it, I'm going to succeed in spite of them. I'm going to succeed to spite them, as a matter of fact. I'm going to succeed and rub their faces in it.
So I washed the dishes, and then I got on the stuck-bike followed out my exercise plan. And so I ended the day.